Katelyn & Thomas at CHBP 2009 ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
[Editor's Note: As a local hip-hop aficionado, Katelyn Hackett has been the one introducing us to much of the best emerging talent in Seattle's hip-hop scene. Recognizing her passion, we've been dropping hints hardcore that she needed to write for Sound on the Sound for about as long as we've known her. Until we bribe her on board, we're happy to present her List for 2009. -josh]
2009 was a fantastic year for local music across the board. Instead of naming which releases I think were the best, I’d rather tell you about some of the (mostly local) new tracks, albums, and performances that I’ve held especially close to my heart this year. I’ve had all of these on repeat at one time or another, and my family and close friends all have links to this music from me scattered through their ’09 email archives. To them I apologize for repeating myself, and to the rest of you, I’m thrilled to present my list! I hope you find something in here that resonates with you.
Kevin Murphy of The Moondoggies playing “Empress of the North” in the KEXP Lounge at the Capitol Hill Block Party
I’ve been a Moondoggies fan since Abbey (of Sound on the Sound) introduced me to “Make It Easy,” which was one of my most-listened-to tracks of 2008. This year’s Moondoggies highlight was an acoustic set from Kevin Murphy in Caffe Vita’s Bean Room stage at the Capitol Hill Block Party. Nursing a gin & tonic, my face red and radiating heat from sunburn, surrounded by some of my very best friends, I sat on a wooden bench and listened to Kevin’s beautiful voice and sad guitar. By the time he’d finished his set, I knew I’d be writing about those minutes as a festival highlight. Thank God KEXP caught “Empress Of The North” on video.
Watch it at Youtube!
John Van Deusen of the Lonely Forest, singing “We Sing In Time” at the Song Show
This year I was proud to support Mark Baumgarten as he presided over SoundNW Magazine and started what I hope will be a long-standing event called the Song Show. During each monthly Song Show, Mark interviews a few artists and asks them to do an acoustic set; all of these interviews and performances are captured on tape, edited, and put online. One of my most beloved performances over the months was from the very talented John Van Deusen of the Lonely Forest. I didn’t get to see the interview live, but his rendition of “We Sing In Time” is stunning.
Watch it at Vimeo!
Kevin Murphy at the Block Party ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
“Go Easy On Me” – Goldfinch, Goldfinch
This contemplative, heart-wrenching, somewhat angsty song from Tacoma rootsy singer-songwriter duo Goldfinch has been on repeat on numerous occasions this fall, especially since I undertook a big out-of-state move and dealt with the emotional turmoil of leaving my home, family, and friends. “Go easy on me, go easy… I can’t undo what I’ve done wrong.” Simple, beautiful harmonies and evocative lyrics crowned by a pleading, sincere chorus have me returning to this track often.
Listen: Via Artist Home Booking.
“Stillness Is The Move” – Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
The Dirty Projectors aren’t, of course, local. But I learned about them through Larry Mizell Jr. of The Stranger & KEXP and Andrew Matson of the SeattleTimes, and listened to the album Bitte Orca probably forty times, mostly while commuting between Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square for work at the magazine. “The question is a truth… The stillness is the move.” I might not know where I’m going or why, I might not feel like I’m making much progress at all, but sometimes disorientation and stagnation are exactly what I need to experience in order to grow as a person. This track’s been really important to me on a personal level, and plus it’s just a damn good song, complex rhythms and interesting structure. Love it.
Listen: via Domino Records.
“Mama’s Eyes” – Justin Townes Earle, Midnight At The Movies
I fell for the suit-clad, string-bean roots musician Justin Townes Earle out of Tennessee at the No Depression Festival over in Marymoor Park last spring when he performed “Mama’s Eyes.” This song about his identity and his relationship with his parents is simple, heartfelt, and brought tears to my eyes as I watched him sing. “Sure it hurts, but it should hurt sometimes.” One of the few non-local tracks I had on repeat this year.
Download “Mama’s Eyes” courtesy of Bloodshot Records.
“Jesus Christ Pose” – Pat Staten & Total Experience Gospel Choir, Kearney Barton, Wheedle’s Groove
The second Wheedle’s Groove album, Kearney Barton, features the lovely Seattle soul & gospel legend Patrinell Staten (now the Rev. Pat Wright) with the Total Experience Gospel Choir putting their own holy twist on Soundgarden’s “Jesus Christ Pose.” Daaayum, it’s full of righteous fire! “You looking at me like I’m the one who drove the nails in your hands.” I knew the good reverend had an interesting story, but this track convinced me to stop sleeping and start unearthing Patrinell Staten recordings from the 60s. What I found led me to more research on the rest of the Wheedle’s Groove roster, through which I learned just enough about Seattle’s rich soul, funk, jazz and gospel heritage to permanently whet my curiosity.
Buy: via Light in the Attic Records.
“Curse Your Branches” – David Bazan, Curse Your Branches
“All fallen leaves should curse their branches for not letting them decide when to fall, or not letting them refuse to fall at all.” As do so many others, I closely identify with singer-songwriter Bazan’s documented crisis of faith. This beautiful track of his in particular captures some of the anger, grief, and disorientation I’ve experienced over the course of my own journey away from the religion of my childhood, and for my own sake, I’m grateful that Bazan is willing enough to brave the darkness and talented enough to express it so well in song.
Watch: a live performance of “Curse Your Branches” at Youtube via Undertow.
“My Volvo” – Grynch, Chemistry [EP]
Grynch, the proclaimed rap King of Ballard, hit his stride with this endearing, funny, absurdly catchy track off his Chemistry EP (released for free at www.getgrynch.com this summer). I cranked the volume every time I heard “My Volvo” on KEXP, emailed it to my friends, sang along at several live performances; the song is a crowd-pleaser and a perfect fit for Grynch’s voice and flow. Grynch is still developing as a lyricist, but he hit gold with this track. Production by Ill Pill.
Watch: Grynch’s rendition in “My Volvo” complete with Katelyn shout-out from this year’s KEXP Lounge at the Capitol Hill Block Party via KEXP
Grynch at the Block Party ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
D. Black - Ali’yah
It’s rare that I can listen to an unapologetically religious modern album without breaking out in hives, given an allergy I developed while recovering from my adolescence spent listening to painfully simplistic alt-contemporary Christian music. But D. Black manages to talk about his deepening faith in an admirably uninfuriating, compelling manner without compromising his sometimes controversial message in the least. “Closer To Yah,” “Yesterday,” and “Let It Go” are some of my favorite tracks on the album. A memorable line from Fatal Lucciauno in his verse on “Close To Yah” has been echoing through my mind these days: “Through your son it was told I can do all things // So why can’t I get a job?” Damned good point.
Khingz – From Slaveships To Spaceships
This incredibly emotional, brave but vulnerable album from emcee Khingz sat on my coffee table for weeks after I listened to it once and set it aside. It took me a few more listens to fully grasp what I was hearing, but when I did fall for From Slaveships To Spaceships, I fell hard. “Bladed Poems,” “Electric Tantra,” the hella nerdy “Blaq Han Solo,” and the title track were my favorite tracks; the album as a whole is a ferocious celebration of creativity and freedom against all odds. Khingz’ live performances are serious business, too, so catch him while he’s in town this winter if you can (he recently relocated to British Columbia).
Shabazz Palaces – S_T, Scimitar
I’m still somewhat wordless on the subject of Digable Planets alum Ish Butler’s brilliant new project, Shabazz Palaces. Suffice it to say that I’ve listened to both albums countless times, perhaps leaning a little more heavily on Scimitar, over the past four months or so. This music is untamed and yet considered; grown-up, complex, organic, philosophical, primal. I’m entranced. I hear something new every time, and my admiration only grows stronger with the weeks passing; this is one of the very best local releases of the year, regardless of genre. Yes, I’m gushing. You will be too, once you’ve heard it a few times.